Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chicken in Milk

With a steady supply of pastured chickens from our Fair Valley Farm CSA, I'm always on the look out for easy whole chicken recipes. Today I tried a one pot Jamie Oliver recipe, classified as genius by food52, with a surprising ingredient list: cinnamon stick, lemon peel, garlic cloves, sage leaves, and milk. The end result was fragrant and succulent, and will definitely be staying on our dinner rotation. You start by browning your chicken in a snug pot, then after decanting the browned butter (which I used in our mashed potatoes), you toss in the remaining ingredients and shove it into the oven for 90 minutes, occasionally basting the chicken with the sauce. The chicken browns but stays wonderfully moist (I positioned the breast side down to keep it submerged), the milk solids separate out, leaving a flavorful sauce, and best of all are the whole roasted garlic cloves to squeeze into your mashed potatoes. This is a perfect weekend afternoon dish because it requires little attention, while infusing the house with delicious smells, and leaving time for other kitchen puttering. As the chicken cooked, I prepared the mashed potatoes and used the lower rack of the oven to rotate through several baking sheets to roast: broccoli for a couple dinners, and cumin carrots and chickpeas for a salad later in the week. It's nice to start the week with a chicken in one's pot and several dinners already in the bag.

One 3-pound (1 1/2-kilogram) organic chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (1 stick or 115 grams) butter or olive oil
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 good handful fresh sage, leaves picked
Zest of 2 lemons, peeled in thick strips with a peeler
10 garlic cloves, skins left on
1 pint (565 milliliters) whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and fry it in the butter or olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the butter left in the pot (or save for another use). This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely caramel flavor later on. 

2. Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, then cook it in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. (Oliver leaves the pot uncovered, but you can leave it partially covered if you'd like it to retain more moisture and make more sauce.) The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce, which is absolutely fantastic. 

3. To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it on to your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.

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